Visiting Gellért Hill Budapest with a Small Dog
Dear Reader I am sensing a pattern. It seems that many of the big European cities have huge hills that are the main park. I first stumbled upon this in Nice and then again in Prague when we discovered Petřín Hill. And I’m not talking about a little park or some artificially made spaces here, no no no. We are talking acres of land. Well, we found yet another in Budapest. Welcome to our day discovering Gellért Hill.
Like so much of Budapest, this pretty hillside park has evolved a lot over the centuries. From wild space to the peaceful vineyards of the 18th century and on to military action of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and everything in between. Imagine if the trees could talk.
On the edge of the park we saw an affluent residential area, with what looked like a number of ambassadorial residences lining the streets. But for the most part its parkland where hedgehogs and bats are the most observed variety of wildlife. Sadly, and much to my chagrin, I saw neither. But I did notice that the pathway was often made of unusual material! SO cool. It pays to look down sometimes!
We started our climb and quickly came across some very interesting art. It was a bit of a surprise but there it was. An amazing statue depicting the “marriage” of Buda to Pest. I really loved it and found it a touching way of honoring what must have been a difficult merging at the time.
We came across a lot of art on our climb up. It’s one of the best things about big open spaces and parkland. The surprise of art behind a curve of the path, or around the bend. Sometimes discreet and hidden. Sometimes large and looming. Some statues recent others older. There was no real rhyme or reason to how they evolved along our path. They simply were there for us to see. The bipeds seemed very fond of them all.
All I know is that there were LOTS of stairs and pathways and I was having an absolute fantastic off-leash time! I was alaso surprised at how few people we saw. I found out later it’s because you CAN access the top by bus. We had taken the long way around it seems.
One of the most impressive monuments – because it is so much more than a statue – is the Saint Gellért Monument. It’s a multilevel thing complete with an artificial waterfall. And high on top is a statue of Bishop Gellért holding a cross while boldly (aggressively?) looking over Budapest.
I had to look this chap up and it turns out that Bishop Gellért first came to Hungary from Italy around the year 1000 to convert Hungarians to Christianity. Many of the local tribesmen whose families had settled the area 100 years earlier, resisted the conversion. When they had enough of his preaching, they rolled Bishop Gellért down the hill in a barrel to his death. I guess that’s one way to do it. Shortly after Gellért’s death, Stephen I became the first King of Hungary. He was a Christian. As the population converted their view of the Bishop changed to one of a martyr. So they made him a Saint.
We tore ourselves away from the view to keep our upward trek until we made it to the Liberation Monument (Szabadság Szobor). Sitting high above Budapest, the 46 foot tall Liberation Statue stands on a 84 foot tall pedestal while lifting a palm leaf toward the city as a symbol of peace.
The monument was built in 1947 in remembrance of the Soviet liberation of Hungary from Nazi forces during World War II. I was told by a local chap that originally the Monument was surrounded by a bunch of Soviet themed statues including a 10 foot tall Soviet solider planting his flag and a 20 foot tall Soviet solider holding machine guns. But, when Communism in Hungary fell in 1989, these Soviet solider statues were removed from the city and moved South to Monument Park (Szoborpark). The main statue of the Liberation Monument was allowed to stay, but with a tweak. They removed the inscriptions supporting the Soviets in favor of, “To the memory of all of those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and success of Hungary.” The only supporting statues remaining at the Monument are a female figure holding the torch of progress and a young man’ killing a dragon which represents the defeat of fascism.
We didn’t make it inside, but we walked around the formidable Citadel. Built by the Habsburg dynasty in 1854 the fortress may look like it was built to defend the people, but in reality it was there to demonstrate the Habsburgs’ control over the Hungarians. You see, from the hill’s vantage point; cannons could hit both Pest and Buda to silence any future uprising. Talk about “big brother watching over you”! But in 1867 Austria and Hungary joined and the Citadel was handed over to the local citizens who promptly destroyed much of it. It so it remained insignificant until WWII when both German and Hungarian forces made it a joint stronghold to fight off the Allies. In a twist of events, the Citadel ended up being vital to the Soviets in WWII when they gained control of it and used the position to bomb the Nazis.
It’s difficult not to be stunned by how much death and such this most beautiful palce has seen. There is also an amazing cave to be visited… and beautiful garden …but by now our legs were wobbly and we were hungry and we took the main road back down to Buda for a lovely dinner along the Danube.
Well worth the visit, I would recommend this to anyone visiting the Buda side. It felt good to be surrounded by so much nature for most of the day. And the views… just stellar. And don’t worry about getting lost – the trails are all marked! Pick a symbol (related to how hard you want the trek to be – this one was advanced) and follow it to the top!
Is there a park on a hill in your city?